"So if I am able to preserve this writing of mine…I would like you to give it the title 'House of Glass.'"

Author Archive


Between Indonesia and America


Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

Back in the United States

I’m back home. After twenty-six months of Peace Corps and three weeks of travelling around South East Asia, there is American soil under my feet again. Service ended on June 5, and I arrived at the the DFW airport on July 4.


One Month Remains

Tropical Landscapes

One month remains in my Peace Corps service. I’m just now allowing myself to start thinking about what these last two years mean as a whole and what it will be like going home. Until recently, I’ve refused to let myself acknowledge that Peace Corps service would come to a close. In fact, it was as late as October when I still thought my COS date was mid-July, not mid-June. I had made myself completely oblivious to the light at the end of the tunnel.


In-Kind Rice Payments

Stacked riceThere are still so many things I haven’t shared with you about Indonesia. I hope I can give you enough small tastes of my community to show you what it is like.

Nothing says ‘Indonesia’ more than my teachers getting paid in-part in rice. As a part of their monthly salary, all teachers at my school receive 10kg of rice – packaged (and presumably) harvested locally. This amount of rice costs about Rp 80,000 and will feed a family of four for about two weeks. To show the value of this rice payment, cash salaries at my school range from around Rp 600,000 per month as non-civil servants, to around Rp 2,500,000 per month as civil servants, and as much as Rp 10,000,000 per month as a senior staff member.


Autonomy: A Younger Break in Java

There are so many things I want to share with you about Java.

The teenage years in American culture are a mad search for autonomy. It comes in milestones: the driver’s license, a few opportunities and technical changes at 18, followed shortly by college. It is granted to children sparingly and comes in large, inevitable doses later.


Protected: Warnings and Disregarding Them

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: Calibrating Fear: Why was there so much excitement regarding such a small eruption?

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: The Public Outreach Model: Observatories and the local community

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: The Raung Lens – Piecemeal answers, anecdotes, and pictures to what I do at the volcano observatory

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: SO CLOSE YET SO FAR: Installing temporary seismometers in new parts of East Java

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Jakarta — Not So Mangled After All

Gunung Lawu at sunset from the Gaya Baru between Surabaya and Jakarta.  (Lawu is nowhere near Jakarta and has nothing to do with Jakarta.  Most of this post is actually about the train ride to Jakarta).

A long train ride and a few days in Jakarta.


2012 Ramadan Fun Facts & Trivia [Updated Aug 18 COMPLETE!]

In addition to the diaries I have been keeping throughout my Ramadan fasting experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have also decided to publish a set of trivia questions.


Every evening, after Maghrib, I have been sending out a “Ramadan Fun Fact” or “Ramadan Trivia Question” to the Peace Corps Volunteers. These fun facts are compiled from a variety of sources. Answers are provided in the respective footnote. The answer is written in a font color that matches the background of this page, so you wont accidentally see the answer to a RTQ you haven’t attempted yet. To read the answer, select the are between ‘Answer’ and ‘End.’ You can practice here:

Answer: Bagus!!!! Selamat ber-Trivia! End.



Ramadan 2012 (East Java, Indonesia) [Updated August 14, Day 25]

This is the banner over the bridge entering my village. The best translation I can come up with is ‘Enjoy Investing Yourself in the Fasting Ritual. Please respect those who are fasting.’ The first sentence (top two lines) is pretty loose.  (Muhammadiyah is spelled wrong).

Note:  Ramadan began on:  the evening of Th 19 July 2012 for Indonesian Muhammadiyah Muslims.  And on the evening of Fr 20 July 2012 for Indonesian NU Muslims.  It is scheduled to end on Sa 18 August 2012.  ||  Catat:  Ramadan bermulai sore Kamis 19 Juli 2012 kalau Muhammadiyah.  Bermulai sore Juma’at 20 Juli 2012 kalau NU.  Rencana selesai Sabtu 18 August 2012.i

More accurately, this is Ramadan 1433H – since Ramadan is a month (the 9th month) in the Islamic calendar.


I’ll use this post to update you on the happenings of Ramadan.  I’m going to make a concerted effort to journal and catalog the daily activities this year (sorry Elle, I’m stealing your idea). The content is raw. There is some filtering and re-wording from my notebook to word processor, but it’s more or less how I wrote it from the initial experience. I plan to keep the entire month in this post.


Other PCV Ramadan blogs:  Elle (diaries) (Tarawiih) |  Amy and Will  | Sarah (diaries) | Ryan Good |


Why I’m Attracted to Surabaya – with ample prelude on rural versus urban, the nature of my site, and places I don’t like to go in Indonesia

Some neat people in front of the statue of Surabaya. As one volunteer explained, “that statue is the first cool thing I saw in Indonesia, so it will always have a fond place in my heart.” This statue and the city have an endearing place in my heart as well. (Picture from Erin F).

This is what happens when I don’t blog for a while, I write a lot.  Sections on:

1. “Growing Up and Moving On and Out” – The context of why I enjoy Surabaya – life from growing up in a big city to attending college in small towns.

2. “Moving to the edge of the world with the Peace Corps… (?)” – What romantic images do people have of Peace Corps sites? Why do they call them “villages” anyways?  What did I expect my site to be like?

3. “The welt of urbanization known as Genteng along the jalan raya” – What is my site like – I hope this gives people back home some idea of what it looks like.

4. “Let’s start talking about people for a second” – How people and their level of exposure play into the rural versus urban discussion?

5. “The wrong place for me to get away” (Bali and other tourist destinations) – Feeling uncomfortable in major tourist destinations and not getting much satisfaction out of places crawling with bule.

and 6. “The easiest way for me to return home half-way around the world” – Finally, why do I like Surabaya so much?


See People Seeing the Transit of Venus

For the last time in 105 years, Venus crossed between the Earth and the Sun.  Two RPCVs who are employed by NASA sent each Peace Corps post (or at least the PC Indonesia post) a packet of information about astsronomy and Venus’s tiny eclipse.  The real prize of the packet was three eclipse glasses—cheap paper shades with polarized plastic lenses that allow you to stare directly at the sun.  Who isn’t attracted to a strange white guy wearing funny sun glasses staring up at the sky in front of a white board in the middle of a school basketball court?  Not my students.


Geology Picture of the Day


Saat April—Year One in Numbers

One of the other ID-5 Volunteers posted a Year One in Numbers post.  I’ve stolen his idea and added statistics for some of his categories and for some of my own.


Nyepi—The Silent Balinese New Year

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nyepi* is the Balinese-Hindu new year celebration rooted in the belief that the island must be ridded of and protected from evil spirits at the beginning of each year.  Spirits are scared away on the days leading up to Nyepi through prayer ceremonies and the procession of scary effigies called ogoh-ogoh.  The island then remains silent on the actual day of Nyepi so that returning spirits will think the island is deserted and pass over.

Like most things on Bali, Nyepi was attractive.  It was full of beautiful fabrics, burning incense, gamelan, great craftsmanship, and excitement.  Unlike most things on Bali, however, Nyepi was not meant for tourists.  Certain practices, such as the closing of Denpasar’s international airport and the police-enforced tradition of keeping locals and tourists inside their dwellings are anathema to the modern catering culture of Bali.

*sepi=quiet, still; menyepi=to become still, to become desolate (Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Bali)

(all photos courtesy of Nicole E.)



The Journey to Raung, Part I—Expectations of Getting Things Done in the Peace Corps

Twelve months ago, I would have considered the prospect of driving nine hours from Houghton to Chicago just for a twenty minute meeting absurd.  This, howeve, is essentially what I did last week, and I was strangely okay with it. (more…)

Saat Maret—Dissected

Completing the adat dress code to enter a temple in Ubud Bali. (photo credit: Nicole E.)

Dissection of times and schedules and resultant spontaneity. (more…)

Witing Kelapa Katon Awe-Awe; The Coconut

What happens when a coconut tree smashes through your roof? (more…)


I’ve revamped the language section of this blog in attempts to make it more readable and more interesting.  This version is slightly longer than the old version, but I think the information is a lot more personable.  I think I’ve transcribed this information in a way that tells a little about the history of the country and my life in it now.  READ ABOUT THE LANGUAGES OF INDONESIA.

I’ve also written a page on Kawah Ijen if you want to learn more about the world’s largest collection of acidic waters.  Kawah Ijen is an active volcanic crater lake about 45 km northwest of my site. It is a place of scientific wonder, industry, and great beauty. READ ABOUT KAWAH IJEN.

Saat Februari–Bandung, Bahasa, MAN Fair

The shortest month became the longest.  What happened? (more…)

False Start, Back to the Starting Boxes

Track and Cross Country were a large part of my college experience for four years, so competitive running often enters my mind as an analogous explanation for the world around me. Anyone who has seen a Gold Medal sprint during the Summer Olympics—even those who don’t follow track—can understand the tension that builds up as the athletes set themselves in their blocks before the race. The beginning of a sprint is everything. The race can be won or lost right there at the start. Each athlete explodes out of the box using his/her own self as the guide when to do so. This is necessary to a successful finish, but it can also lead to a false start—the quickest way to loose in track. In a false start, all of the energy builds up to the point that a fuse is blown—an athlete takes off early—and the whole event is shut down and re-set. The field decreases by one and the tension builds by ten.

False starts are devastating but decisive in a sprint. I was two meters away from the starting line of the 200m Division III National Indoor Championship when a female athlete got herself disqualified by false start. My brain immediately went to visualizing all of the alternate realities in which this woman won the race as if to make up for the fact that she no longer even had the chance in our own reality. It was cold to imagine all of those possibilities suddenly extinguished. I was struck by how calm the athlete was as she accepted her punishment and left the track. Perhaps she had already accepted—long before the race began—that she lived and died in one single moment.

Maybe I couldn’t understand this athlete’s collectedness because I was a distance runner.